Srebrenica, 17 years later: a national and global conscience examination
Every year, on July 11, in Potoèari, at the memorial across the ex-headquarters of UN blue helmets of Srebrenica, the slaughter of over 8000 Bosnian Muslims, killed on July 11 1995 by the Serbian-Bosnian forces is commemorated. It is the most ferocious warlike episode in the history of Europe since the end of the Second World War. The conflict in Bosnia had reached its third year when the Serbian-Bosnian troops put under siege Sbrenica, a Muslim enclave in the Serbian territories under the protection of the UN since the outbreak of the war. A contingent of Dutch Blue Helmets was tasked with its defense. At the beginning of July, General Ratko Mladic attacked the city that engaged a resistance until it fell on July 11. In the following 48 hours the entire population was ousted. The women, those who survived rapes and violence, found shelter with their children in Tuzla, in the North of Bosnia, while all the men, approximately 8000, including young and old people, were assembled in the central square, many of them were executed on the spot. The others were charged on trucks and were never found again. According to those who survived, they were slaughtered like animals and buried in mass graves. Their remains were recovered across 150 surrounding areas, 74 of which were mass graves, called “secondary mass graves”, where they were transferred the end of the war (1992-95) in the attempt to hide the evidence of the massacre. Those responsible for the genocide – as confirmed by the juridical proceedings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), by the International Court of Justice and by the Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina for war crimes - are Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, respectively political and military leaders of the Serbs of Bosnia. On the “recurrence” Daniele Rocchi collected for SIR Europe the contribution of Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Sarayevo.
Your Eminence, after 17 years the wound of Srebrenica is still open and bleeding… “July 11, the day on which we remember the execution of thousands of innocent people, must serve for a conscience examination not only at national but also at global level. We have to promote the respect for all the victims of the war, and in particular those of Srebrenica. In Bosnia-Herzegovina many were killed. We must raise public-awareness over the respect for all victims who lost their lives because of hatred”.
Politics seem to have missed this goal. On which values should we base our attempts to heal this wound? “We have to create a climate and a mentality against the war, which reposes on principles of historical truth, justice and peace. Political truth isn’t enough. We need historical truth that closely analyses the events. Truth must be coupled by justice. The culprits must respond for their actions. In order to reach peace all people must be equal, regardless of their faith, ethnicity or national identity. Equality triggers the respect for human rights and the dignity of the living and of those who lost their lives”.
Srebrenica today is no longer a besieged country but a hostage of poverty and oblivion on the part of the international community. Why? “This happens because of the manipulation on the part of politicians who want recognitions from this symbolic city. What is lacking is the respect for their dead. It is necessary that at public, political and international level these injustices are amended. We mustn’t forget Srebrenica but we have to work to heal the injustice and the open wounds”.
On June 11 other 519 corpses were entombed. They are the last victims that were identified this year with a DNA test. They were placed near the already 5137 existing tombs… “On July 11 I didn’t pay an official visit to Potoèari because I wanted to avoid political manipulations. I went alone to pray for all the dead and to support and give hope to the living”.
Sarajevo, from September 9 -11 will host hundreds of religious leaders from all confessions, along with dignitaries from over 60 countries, marking 20 years since the siege. Also the city of Sarajevo is the martyr of a fratricidal war, which today intends to act as a paradigm of coexistence between peoples for Europe. Is it also a message for Srebrenica? “We will meet to create a climate, as previously said, which is against war and in favour of peace and reconciliation. We want a new climate for Sarajevo, for Srebrenica, for the entire region, under the religious, cultural and political angle. And we will commit ourselves to achieve it”.